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Singer, Music Producer (1939–2013

Ray Manzarek Biography

Quick Facts
Name Ray Manzarek Occupation Singer, Music Producer Birth Date February 12, 1939 Death Date May 20, 2013 Education DePaul University, University of California, Los Angeles Place of Birth Chicago, Illinois Place of Death Rosenheim, Germany AKA Raymond Daniel Manczarek Ray Manczarek Raymond Manczarek Ray ManzarekFull Name Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr.
Early Life
Success with the Doors
Life After the Doors
Death and Legacy
Cite This Page

Ray Manzarek was a co-founder of the Doors, a 1960s rock band. His keyboard skills helped turn Doors songs like “Light My Fire” into huge hits.


“We knew what the people wanted: the same thing the Doors wanted. Freedom.”

—Ray Manzarek


Ray Manzarek was born in Chicago, Illinois, on February 12, 1939. After moving to California, Manzarek became a founding member of the Doors, the psychedelic rock band. The Doors split up soon after the death of lead singer Jim Morrison, but Manzarek continued to work as a successful musician, producer and writer. Manzarek died in Rosenheim, Germany, on May 20, 2013, at the age of 74.

Early Life

Ray Manzarek was born Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. on February 12, 1939, in Chicago, Illinois. He trained as a classical organist and pianist during his childhood. After studying economics at DePaul University, Manzarek moved to California, where he attended film school at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Success with the Doors

In 1965, Manzarek happened to run into fellow UCLA student Jim Morrison on a beach in Venice, California. After hearing some of Morrison’s poetic song lyrics, Manzarek suggested that they form a band. Lead singer Morrison and keyboardist Manzarek were soon joined by guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. Together, the four men made up the Doors. Each member brought something special to the band, with Manzarek offering his powerful keyboard skills and classical, blues and jazz influences.

The musical world of the 1960s was filled with bands who wanted to speak for the counterculture, but the Doors struck a chord. The Doors were signed to Elektra Records in 1966 and released their first album the following year. Playing a Vox Continental organ, Manzarek gave many Doors songs a unique sound, as demonstrated in their No. 1 hit “Light My Fire.” The band’s other hit songs included “Break on Through (To the Other Side),” “Riders on the Storm” and “Hello, I Love You.”

The Doors had recorded six successful albums before Morrison died in Paris, France, in 1971. After Morrison’s death, Manzarek took over as vocalist. The group put out two more albums, but, as Manzarek explained, “[It] wasn’t the Doors without Morrison.” The remaining members split up in 1973.

Life After the Doors

After the Doors broke up, Manzarek stayed in the music business. In addition to putting out solo albums, he formed the band Nite City. Manzarek also worked with composer Philip Glass on a rock adaptation of “Carmina Burana,” produced albums for the punk band X, and recorded with Weird Al Yankovic.

In 2002, Manzarek began touring with Doors guitarist Krieger, leading to a legal battle with Densmore about their rights to use the band’s name (the final name the two performed under was Manzarek-Krieger). However, the dispute with Densmore didn’t keep the three remaining Doors members from recording together later, as they worked on “Breakin’ a Sweat” with electronic musician Skrillex.

In addition to music, Manzarek penned an autobiography, Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors, in 1998. He also wrote two novels that were published in the 2000s.

Death and Legacy

On May 20, 2013, after fighting bile duct cancer for years, Manzarek died at the age of 74 in a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany.

Though his life was filled with a multitude of other accomplishments, Manzarek is best known as a member of one of the most successful bands the world has ever seen. The Doors have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, been immortalized in an Oliver Stone film and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Being a part of a success like the Doors is something few musicians get the chance to experience, and Manzarek was proud of that legacy.

Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr.. (2014). The website. Retrieved 01:33, Apr 12, 2014, from

Harvard Style

Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr.. [Internet]. 2014. The website. Available from: [Accessed 12 Apr 2014].

“Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr..” 2014. The website. Apr 12 2014
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Ray Manzarek
By Levi Asher on Monday, May 20, 2013 08:33 pm

Audio Literature, Beat Generation, Music, Poetry Readings, Postmodernism, Summer Of Love, Tributes
I saw Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist for the Doors who died today, at a poetry show with Michael McClure at the Bottom Line nightclub in New York City a few years ago. I was awestruck by both legends on that stage: McClure for being a Beat Generation poet and Ray Manzarek for being the most exciting keyboard player in the history of rock, the architect of the “Light My Fire” sound, a key literary/avant-garde scenester of the hippie and post-hippie era, and the enabler of Jim Morrison.

I wasn’t actually blown away by the Bottom Line poetry show, maybe because I like Michael McClure and Ray Manzarek too much individually for the tastes to go together. But, looking for a YouTube video with which to pay tribute to great Brother Ray today, I skipped the obvious Doors selections and settled instead on a McClure/Manzarek performance uploaded in 2008. Manzarek plucks shimmering riffs from “Riders on the Storm” while McClure says stuff like this:

i am my abstract alchemist of flesh made real

The luminescent celestial canvas of “Riders” is a good example of Ray Manzarek at his best. It’s good to see in this late-career video that maturity did not dim Manzarek’s spiritual major key brightness, nor slow his tempo. He died of cancer at the age of 74. As McClure says: O Muse!

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